Yanks not the only team that stumbled in September

For the Yankees, playoffs bring a much needed fresh start
Don't overlook these under-the-radar Twins

It wasn’t the strongest way to end the season. In the final month the Yankees went 13-17, costing them the AL East crown. Some of those losses came as a sacrifice; the Yankees invoked the old cliche about losing the battle to win the war. But even the regulars had their struggles during the month-long tumble. It has left many fans with a bad feeling heading into the playoffs. This team just hasn’t dominated in the same way it did in 2009. Yet neither of those factors — the relative dominance and the stumbling — should matter much in October.

As Mike said earlier, the Yanks have a fresh start on Wednesday. So do the other three playoff teams. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing for the Yanks. It’s good because they can recover from a rough September. It’s bad because the other playoff teams share the same advantage. None of the four teams played particularly well down the stretch. They didn’t stumble in the same manner the Yankees did, but we’d be kidding ourselves to think any team is heading into the playoffs on a hot streak.

Tampa Bay

The Yankees opened September with a one-game lead in the AL East. They lost four of seven to the Rays that month, which covered the difference. They also lost one more game otherwise and finished one back. That should say something about how the Rays played during the month. If the Yanks played so poorly, shouldn’t the Rays have run away with the division?

In the final month the Rays went 15-15 despite playing 16 of those games against sub-.500 teams. They were a bit worse at the end, too, losing four of seven to Baltimore and Kansas City. It wasn’t as bad as the Yanks losing six of nine to Boston and Toronto, but then again both of those teams finished the season over .500. Tampa Bay’s losses are a bit less excusable.


Of all the AL postseason teams, the Rangers probably finished the strongest. In their final three series they went 6-5 against Oakland, Seattle, and Anaheim. But, again, those aren’t the strongest teams. Oakland was the best among them, as they finished 81-81. If you go back a bit further, though, the results aren’t quite as good. Their final five series all came against AL West teams, and during that span the Rangers went 8-9, losing four of six to Seattle and five of seven to Anaheim. Their seven-game win streak against Toronto, New York, and Detroit was the highlight of the month.


An 18-12 record in September looks good, and was certainly the best among AL postseason teams. Yet even the Twins limped to the finish line. After an 11-1 stretch that essentially eliminated the White Sox from contention, the Twins went 6-10 to finish the season, and lost eight of their last 10 games. Not even the Yankees finished the season that poorly. While it’s true that the Twins started their losing streak once they had the division under wraps, isn’t it also true that the Yankees started playing poorly once they had a playoff spot well at hand?

It’s easy to focus on the Yankees, since they’re the ones we watch for 162 games. But their troubles are not unique. Other teams are in similar positions and find themselves needing to turn around recent poor play. We’ve seen plenty of teams limp into the playoffs and make long runs — we like to cite the 2000 Yankees, but in 2006 both World Series teams, the Cardinals and the Tigers, backed into the playoffs. It appears as though that will be the case, at least in the AL, this year. We have four limping teams meeting up during the next week. At least two of them will shed the crutches and move on.

For the Yankees, playoffs bring a much needed fresh start
Don't overlook these under-the-radar Twins
  • Ivan


  • vin

    Have I mentioned lately how much I dislike the concept of divisions? In a division with only 4 teams, the 2nd place team finished at .500.

    Imagine for a moment (hypothetical coming) that teams like the Sox (both of them), Tigers, O’s, and Mariners had played closer to expectation? The Rangers still could’ve coast to a division title with 85± wins. While the East and Central could’ve been 3-way dogfights.

    The purpose of the playoffs is to have the 4 best teams from each league square off against each other. I hate seeing teams benefit from weak divisions, or be hurt by strong divisions. The ’01 A’s won 102 games and still opened on the road against the 95-win Yankees.

    The only reason we still have divisions is so teams can sell the concept of rivalries to the fans. Meanwhile, I think the Yankees have much stronger rivalries against the Twins and Angels than they do the Jays and O’s. Regional rivalries are for teams that don’t win enough to earn legitimate on-the-field rivalries.

    It seems so illogical to me, that a sport that is so heavily rooted in numbers & statistics can leave a better team out of the playoffs (or not have HFA) just because they’ve been lumped into a grouping of more competitive teams.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      The purpose of the playoffs is to have the 4 best teams from each league square off against each other.

      Not necessarily.

      If you ask Bud Selig or the collective owners of the 30 MLB teams, they might say that the purpose of the playoffs is to crown a champion while building interest and fanhood in the sport, and that having pre-planned divisions that guarantee that all geographic sections of the sport are represented every October is better for the game than simply having the 4 best teams get in.

      • vin

        That’s almost certainly part of their thinking. And I understand the value in not having all the playoff teams being from the Northeast. However, it just seems so illogical to me. The best teams should be rewarded, regardless of where they play.

        I think giving HFA to the team with the best record (even if they are the WC) is at least a reasonable place to start.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          I think giving HFA to the team with the best record (even if they are the WC) is at least a reasonable place to start.

          I’m good with that, but baseball will probably never do that. No sport is more obsessed with deference and fairness to how the game was played in the past than baseball; purists would never let a non-division winner be treated on equal (or better) footing with a division winner.

        • Mike

          How about balancing the schedule, and keeping the divisions the way they are? This way all of the geographic regions are represented but you don’t have teams benefiting as much from weak divisions. Sure you still might need less wins to win the West as opposed to the east, but at least the scheduling would be fair.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            Sure, works for me.

      • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

        I’m sure everyone in Southern California is happy that their region is represented via Dallas and the Bay Area.

        • http://www.twitter.com/jordan_smed JGS

          Fun fact: 1999 was the only year since the strike that no California team made the playoffs

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          I’m sure for every Angeleno who would love to see the Giants fail because they’re from Frisco, there’s also a casual fan who will root for the California team even if they’re not their own.

      • Ed

        That’s a big part of it.

        Another factor – if you’re a fan of a really bad team, its a lot easier to care about a 5th place team than a 12th+ place team. 5th place feels a lot easier to dig out of than 12th place does. Pittsburgh fans would probably just give up with that 16th place hole to dig out of.

        I think the weaker teams would lose a ton of fans in a one division setup. Less fans = less revenue = harder to build up the team.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          That too.

          I doubt you’ll ever see a North American pro sports league with a division larger than 6 teams ever again.

    • mustang

      I think they need to make winning division be worth more. They can start by giving the wild card just one home if that. They also can bring back the balance schedule in the current format it makes more sense then in the past.

  • Dream of Electric Sheep

    Got it , everyone has been mediocre and sucky coming down the stretch.

    It’s a new season !

  • JackC

    I think a person’s ability to have faith in the Yanks having at least a fair chance to advance increases geometrically in relation to the amount of time one looks closely at the other teams. These Yanks would stand zero chance against the ’98 Yanks, but no such team, or anything close to it, is on the horizon.

    • vin

      The 95-win Yankees took down the 116-win Mariners in ’01. That’s a difference of 21 games. I’ve come to the realization that there are no guarantees in the playoffs. It’s very nearly a total crapshoot.

    • Esteban

      Word, I agree with this. A lot of people who are pessimistic about the Yankees lack perspective about the other teams.

  • Yank the Frank

    Think about how many more titles the Yankees would have had if there was always had been wild card teams. I vaguely remember a stretch in the eighties (I vaguely remember the eighties being a child of the sixties that I can only remember through movies and certain songs) where the Yankees always seemed to finish second in their division. They had a much better record than the western division and missed the playoffs entirely. Am I still on topic?

    • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

      Yes, I believe in 85 and 86, the Yankees had the second-best record in the AL.

      The years between the 77 expansion and the creation of the wild card in 95 were the hardest years to make the playoffs, as only two teams out of 12 or 14 made the playoffs.

      • vin

        Good point. Did you see the link that Steve H posted yesterday?


        The concept is for baseball to expand the playoffs to 8 teams per league (like the NBA and NHL). I don’t know if I love the idea or hate it. The season would need to be significantly shortened, which will make the owners of the also-ran teams very unhappy (fewer home games = fewer dollars).

        If there were 8 teams in the playoffs (and I’m not saying I’m in favor of it), then I could live with the 3 division winners getting in, along with the teams with the 5 next best records.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          But if you’re eliminating regular season games but adding another entire round of playoffs with twice as many teams, you probably make back the money you lose (and then some).

          • vin

            Yeah, but the teams that miss out on the playoffs will have fewer home games. I honestly don’t know how much of playoff dollars goes to revenue sharing, but I doubt that it, in it’s smaller percentage, would be as large as the 14 extra home games under the current schedule.

            Also, the smaller market teams will probably claim that the big spenders are more likely to make the playoffs and will now earn more with the new format, thus widenening the gap. Not saying I completely agree with it, but that would be their negotiating ploy.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              How many games would we be eliminating here? 14? That’s 7 home games?

              7 fewer home games for every team (210 total regular season games) balanced against 8 more teams making the playoffs and 30-50 more playoff games total?

              With jacked up playoff prices, and jacked up playoff concessions, and oodles more playoff merchandise (especially for teams that don’t often make playoff runs)?

              I bet it’s still a financial win.

              And I bet small market teams are in favor of it, not against it. Losing those 7 home dates would hurt, but being able to have a far higher playoff probability is worth it.

              The teams that would fight against an expanded playoff and a shortened regular season are the big money big market teams that would see their competitive advantage lessened.

        • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

          Having more than half the league in the playoffs is a terrible idea. It leads to multiple teams with sub-.500 records making the playoffs, which is just stupid. No way should you be able to lose more games than you win and make the playoffs.

          I like the 8 teams, it means you actually have to be the best to get in (except that year when the NL West team was like 82-80 or whatever). I wouldn’t mind seeing 10 teams with the two wild cards in each league playing a best-of-three play-in.

          • vin

            To me, the biggest drawback to the idea is that, unlike basketball or hockey, baseball is very unpredictable. In basketball and hockey, the better team usually beats the lesser team over the span of a 7 game series. In baseball, a team with a dominant starter and a lucky offense can do serious damage in the playoffs.

            What’s strange about baseball is the characteristics that lead to a great 162-game team aren’t necessarily te same ones that make a great playoff team. Starting pitching depth, a deep bullpen, a strong bench, a decent farm system, and a shrewd GM are more important over the long haul than in a 7, and especially a 5, game series.

            I don’t like having to see the best teams be on the wrong end of randomness and lady luck in the playoffs any more than they need to.

            But going to a 16 team playoff is a complete concept changer. It would be pretty hard for lots of people to accept.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            Having more than half the league in the playoffs is a terrible idea. It leads to multiple teams with sub-.500 records making the playoffs, which is just stupid.

            Fact: In the AL (where it’s worse, since there’s only 14 total teams), only five times in the past decade has the 8th best team had a losing record (the 2007 79-83 Twins, the 2005 80-82 Blue Jays, the 2004 80-82 Indians, the 2002 78-84 Blue Jays, the 2001 80-82 Blue Jays).

            You might have one losing team make the #8 seed, but I doubt you’d have multiple losing teams in the playoffs with regularity. There’s always several putrid teams like the Royals/Orioles/Mariners that everyone beats up on and fattens their records against.

            • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

              Well right now, Detroit would be in with an 81-81 record, so not sub-.500, but close enough. As well as Florida with an 80-82 record.

            • Jerome S

              Having a losing team make the playoffs doesn’t make sense.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                A.) They’re the worst team in the playoffs, and they’ll get rolled over 9 times out of 10 by the #1 seed.
                B.) It’s not a 62-100 team making the playoffs, it’s a 80-82 team making the playoffs. 80-82 isn’t a horrible team, just a sub-.500 team.

    • vin

      They finished 2nd twice in the 80s. In ’85 they won 97 games – 6 more than the Western division winning Royals. Toronto won the division with 99.

      In ’86 they won only 90 games, but still finished 2nd to Boston and had the 3rd most wins in the league. There was a lot of parity that year. All but 3 AL teams were withing 10 games of .500 (had between 71 and 91 wins).

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      1985 Yankees: 97-64 (finished two games back of the Jays, 4th best record in all of baseball)

      1986 Yankees: 90-72 (5 back of the BoSox, 5th best record in all baseball)

      Those Mattingly-Winfield-Rickey Henderson-Willie Randolph-Griffey Sr.-Guidry-Righetti teams would have been fun to watch in the postseason.

    • Chris

      Didn’t the Yankees have the most wins in baseball during the ’80s?

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


  • bonestock94

    It’s a good reality check to see that as disgustingly awful the Yankees were in September, the Rays were in second place two days before the season ended.

  • Dave K

    Has anyone ever sat or seen the Section 214B Standing Room Only seats? I mistakenly purchased these tickets on stubhub (not realizing they were SRO), and was curious what the sightlines were like. I don’t mind standing for the game and it sounds like you get your own designated ‘area’ so you don’t have to worry about not having a spot but was hoping to get some feedback from someone who has sat (stood) here or seen this area in person?

    Thanks in advance.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama
      • mustang

        What’s the over/under on bexarama keeping up with being the new “not rude” bexarama?

        • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

          :( I’m really trying…

          • first time long time

            It’s not like you say anything mean or personal, IMO. I don’t see why people should get offended.

        • mustang


          The irony in this is killing me.

  • larryf

    “The Thrill from Holly Hill” Gardy’s nickname seen on NoMaas/Bleacher Report

    Run Brett run!

    /Forrest Gump’d

  • first time long time

    Reasons Yankees Fans should have confidence going into the postseason, despite the crappy play:
    Let’s compare what the we have to what every other team doesn’t have:

    Starting Pitching:
    Sabathia (potential Cy Young), Hughes (other than homeruns and inability to finish hitters doens’t give up too many hits), Andy (coming off injury, but with some rest, he should be decent, if not great, he also has a good postseason track record if that helps.)

    Our closer is Mariano Rivera…Who else can say that, really?
    Wood (other than walks, has been very dominant with us)
    Robertson: Crazy strikeout machine
    Joba: might be a weak link, unless he’s throwing 98
    Logan: Only lefty, but he isn’t that terrible
    Javy: Probably won’t see much of him, but probably won’t give up homers in Target Field
    AJ: Could throw a no hitter, could give up 7 runs in an inning

    Jeter: Always does well in postseason regardless of his regular season
    Swisher: Power hitter, does well with runners on
    Teixeira: Might be a question mark with the injuries
    A-Rod: See: 2009 post season
    Cano: Possible MVP
    Jorge: Terrible lately, but hey, he’s Jorge, and a possible hall of famer
    Thames/Berky: Wouldn’t call them great but they’re alright
    Granderson: We’ve seen what he’s done since August…
    Gardner: Fast, works good at bats (except for when he doesn’t swing at fastballs down the middle, which is kind of annoying, no offense Brett…)
    Our line-up is stacked with potential MVP’s, allstars, and hall of famers, seriously, who else can say that about their lineup?

    Bench: Cervelli, Kearns, Pena, Golsen (?), Nunez (?), doubt we’ll be seeing much of these guys.

    Basically, if we’re clicking, we are a very, very, scary team. I am most concerned about the offense, because of the way they’ve been (not)scoring too many runs recently. However, if our starting pitching keeps us in the game, which I believe they SHOULD be able to, I think our offense will be enough.

    • first time long time

      On paper it looks like a very strong team, however I do not know what to expect from them at this point in time.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


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